Living in a Now/Not Yet Reality

Our Wednesday night men’s group is starting a new study this week on the Sermon on the Mount. Looking forward to it for a number of reasons. Sensing that the timing of it is no accident. Expecting it to connect and bring clarity in the context of this current season (the Word of God has a way of doing that, you know?).

As has been our practice for the past few years, our men’s study is going to be leveraging the “Christ-Centered Exposition” series to guide us. “Exalting Jesus in The Sermon on the Mount” will be our common prep each week and will provide the structure for our discussions during our Zoom gathering. And something in its intro comes to mind as I read in Matthew 5 this morning.

” . . . there is a now/not yet reality to our citizenship: we are kingdom citizens now, but we await the full manifestation of that kingdom when Jesus returns.”

Akin, Danny; Holman Reference Staff. Exalting Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary) (p. 14). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

There is a “now/not yet reality” to the kingdom. The kingdom is at hand now. We are citizens now of a heavenly economy. But we await the fullness of it, and that, when Jesus comes again. That’s the filter through which I’m processing the Beatitudes this morning.

Eight blessings.

Eight attributes of kingdom people. They are poor in spirit. They mourn. They are meek. They hunger and thirst after righteousness. They are merciful. They are pure in heart. They are peacemakers. They are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.

Eight promises. Theirs is the kingdom of heaven. They shall be comforted. They shall inherit the earth. They shall be satisfied. They shall receive mercy. They shall see God. They shall be called sons of God. For theirs is the kingdom of God.

Note the bookends of the promises, theirs is the kingdom. Makes me think that the other six promises are just synonyms for the kingdom. That being comforted, satisfied, and receiving mercy are kingdom of heaven realities. That inheriting the earth, seeing God, and being clearly recognized as His children are actualized as part of being in the kingdom of God. And all of it within the dynamic of a now/not yet reality. Now in part. One day yet, to fully be.

Is that why Jesus concludes these eight blessings with . . .

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven . . .

(Matthew 5:12a ESV)

Isn’t that what each of these blessings are, a reward? The recompense promised for those who toil for the kingdom? That fruit that results naturally, or more accurately supernaturally, from the seed that is sown? Realized, to some extent, in the now, but not fully known, and “great”, until the not yet. We sample and taste of the blessing even now, but great will be the reward in heaven.

So, isn’t that the key to seeking first the kingdom (Matt. 6:33)? Not necessarily expecting the fullness of the reward in the now, but living in full anticipation of the literal fulfillment of the promises in the not yet? Would that be what was behind Paul’s exhortation to the Colossians?

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

(Colossians 3:1-2 ESV)

Our reward is great in heaven — seek the things that are above. For ours is the kingdom of God — set your minds on things that are above. Live in the now. Focus on the not yet.

Sing the wondrous love of Jesus
Sing His mercy and His grace
In the mansions bright and blessed
He’ll prepare for us a place

While we walk the pilgrim pathway
Clouds will overspread the sky
But when travelling days are over
Not a shadow not a sigh

Let us then be true and faithful
Trusting serving every day
Just one glimpse of Him in glory
Will the toils of life repay

Onward to the prize before us
Soon His beauty we’ll behold
Soon the pearly gates will open
We shall tread the streets of gold

When we all get to heaven
What a day of rejoicing that will be
When we all see Jesus
We’ll sing and shout the victory

Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus, Eliza Edmunds Stites Hewitt, 1898
Public Domain

Rejoice and be glad.

In the now. In anticipation of the not yet.

By His grace. For His glory.

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At Hand

Nope! Didn’t happen. The clock didn’t strike midnight and everything cleared. No switch was thrown, no corner was turned. In fact, 2021 began much like 2020 ended. Still a pandemic raging. Still an economy suffering. Still so many people reeling. Racial tensions and powder keg protests still happening. Oh yeah, and an election still being contested . . . seriously!?! Heavy sigh!

But actually, I’m not trying to be a “Debbie Downer.” It’s just the dark backdrop against which the light shines. The very real context in which seven words spoken by Jesus pop off the page this morning.

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

(Matthew 4::17 ESV)

At hand. Drawing near. Coming nigh. Or, for me the most intriguing of my lexicon’s definitions, “joining one thing to another.”

2,000 years ago Jesus began to preach that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. That the way things should be, and the way God has promised they will be, is here and getting closer all the time. Joining the one thing of His heavenly rule with the other thing of our earthly reality. Come on, people . . . that’s good news!

Even with all the uncertainty that lingers with the coming of this new year, one thing we know, the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

We know who reigns. We know how to abide in His presence. We know we are on mission as ambassadors. We know the enabling of His Spirit — the power of God joining with the frailty of men and women, compelling us to live in His now but not yet, earth-transcending kingdom.

Terrestrial people who are citizens of a near and ever nearing celestial land. Occupying addresses on streets of pavement yet “seeking a homeland” (Heb. 11:14) with streets of gold (Rev. 21:21). Desiring “a better country, that is, a heavenly one”, “looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10, 16).

And all this is at hand. Drawing near. Coming nigh. Joining one thing to another.

And if that was true two millennia ago, what sense of anticipation should grip us as we bring in a new year?

Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.

(Romans 13:11 ESV)

Nearer to us now than when we first believed. Not that we hunker down and await His soon coming, but we lean into the year to come, having under our belt another year’s experience (and what a year!) with living in the reality of the kingdom at hand. 2020 a year of experientially knowing the tangible reality of God’s promises, God’s presence, and God’s power. The kingdom of heaven more real to us today than it was when we blissfully entered 2020. If nothing else, we enter 2021 awake.

Awake to His Sovereignty. Awake to His steadfast love to us. Awake to His strength in us. Awake to the surety of a kingdom at hand — that heavenly surety joining itself to our present reality, whatever it may be.

Amen?

All by His grace. Only for His glory.

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What I Do Know

Goodbye 2020! Who could have imagined a year ago what you would bring? But, while I’m really hoping that 2021 is a little kinder, not gonna lie, I think I may have benefited somewhat from your crucible. Not just survived but actually thrived a bit. Not in an I-had-it-all-together-and-was-victorious sense, but in a growth sense, in a sanctification sense, in a being-a-little-more-conformed-to-the-likeness-of-Jesus sense, I hope. Not because of my resilience, but because of my Shepherd’s faithfulness. Not through my own strength or power, but by the sustaining enabling of the Spirit in me. Not because of my grittiness, but by the Sovereign’s grace. But still, 2020, not all that sad to see you leave.

But while there’s a sense of being glad this year will soon be behind us, reality is that we have no idea what the next year in this decade will bring. For everything we think we might have learned about pandemics, politics, the public square, and our personal participation, if we take just a moment of sober reflection we also quickly realize all that is simply unknown when it comes to what’s next. We can calculate, we can speculate, we can even pontificate, but bottom line is, we just don’t know.

Maybe that’s why the songwriter’s simple statement of surety popped off the page this morning.

But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for Himself;
the LORD hears when I call to Him.

(Psalm 4:3 ESV)

Lot of stuff I don’t know, but this I do know: the LORD has set apart the godly for Himself. Not the self-proclaimed godly who clothe themselves in their own self-righteousness, but the blood-bought godly who bear the robe of Christ’s righteousness.

Reminded this morning that those He has saved He has separated. Though still in the flesh, set apart to walk by the Spirit. To be sure, still in the world, but marked as citizens of a transcendent kingdom. Like everyone else, trying to navigate the here and now, but doing so with an eye, and our hearts, recalibrated for the there and then. Sharing the common experience of not knowing what the next year may bring, but set apart with a calming assurance, knowing with certainty, they we have been claimed for the LORD God Himself.

Sure, could stew this morning on what I don’t know. But for now, I’ll chew on what I do know.

By His grace. For His glory.

Hovering over this brought to mind the following hymn:

Loved with everlasting love,
Led by grace that love to know;
Gracious Spirit from above,
Thou hast taught me it is so!
Oh, this full and perfect peace!
Oh, this transport all divine!
In a love which cannot cease,
I am His, and He is mine;
In a love which cannot cease,
I am His, and He is mine.

Things that once were wild alarms
Cannot now disturb my rest,
Closed in everlasting arms,
Pillowed on His loving breast;
Oh, to lie forever here,
Doubt and care and self resign,
While He whispers in my ear
I am His, and He is mine;
While He whispers in my ear
I am His, and He is mine.

His forever, only His;
Who the Lord and me shall part?
Ah, with what a rest of bliss
Christ can fill the loving heart!
Heav’n and earth may fade and flee,
Firstborn light in gloom decline,
But while God and I shall be,
I am His, and He is mine;
But while God and I shall be,
I am His, and He is mine.

— I Am His, and He Is Mine | George W. Robinson © Public Domain

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Thankful for Weak Neck Muscles

There are many wonders to ponder when it comes to how the human body is made. On the rare occasions we actually pause to consider the nature of our physical construction, we can’t help but be amazed. How the heart beats, how the lungs mindlessly expand and contract, how the brain takes in stimulus, processes the appropriate response, and then calls on appendages and extremities to react in a coordinated fashion. If you pause but a few minutes to think about the fact that your body works the way your body works you can’t help but whisper, “I really am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14).

So here’s the amazing body part I’m thinking about this morning: my neck muscles. Specifically, how the neck muscles give out when the soul is overwhelmed. Whether it’s because of sorrow, or due to that unwanted tsunami of anxiety when all the cares of your world converge at once and flood every inch of your being, often when we feel overwhelmed we involuntarily find ourselves with our heads down.

Is it because, when we feel sapped of all strength, our body starts to draw from other areas and targets the neck first? Or because our brains become so overloaded with stuff to deal with that they become too heavy for the neck muscles we’ve developed? Or, is it just God’s way of wiring us to physically indicate submission. An instinctive response that physically says it’s all too much, that we can’t carry the load on our own? I don’t know. Just thinking.

What’s got me thinking? Psalm 3.

O LORD, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God. Selah.

But You, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the Lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the LORD, and He answered me from His holy hill. Selah.

I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.

(Psalm 3:1-5 ESV)

A song written when David fled from Absalom. The king dethroned by his own son. The culmination of family dysfunction and sordid sin which, had David acted differently, might have been avoided. But here he was, the king fleeing his kingdom. His enemies led by his own family. His very existence a threat to those who sought power. His death necessary to secure their future. “How many are my foes!” pens the persecuted poet.

And yet, but a couple of lines later, “I lay down and slept; I woke again.” Talk about a flip flop of emotions. From worrying about rising enemies to waking from resting comfortably. What happened?

. . . for the LORD sustained me . . .

. . . a shield about me, my glory, and the Lifter of my head . . .

How’s that for lesser known names of Jehovah? Lifter of my head!

When the neck muscles give out, He is the Lifter of my head.

Maybe that’s why the Creator created them that way. So that when our chins touch our chest because our souls are overwhelmed by our situation, He can be the lifter of our head. A physical indicator of His supernatural presence. Reminding us that our shield and our protection is engaged and active. That He will be our glory, His purposes for us His to fulfill. And so, He lifts our head to show us He’s near.

He lifts our head so we can look to heaven. Lifts our head so we can cry out in our need, as David did, knowing our God will hear and our God will answer from His holy hill. Lifts our head so we can rest. Because the LORD sustains us.

Thankful this morning for weak neck muscles (better than being stiff-necked for sure . . . but that’s something to chew on for another time).

Thankful, for in my weakness His power is made perfect (2Cor. 12:9). His all-sufficient, sustaining power as the Lifter of my head.

By His grace. For His glory.

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One Man’s Bonds, Another Man’s Refuge

Rage. Is that a way to describe, at least in part, what my friend calls our “cultural moment”?

Tumult. Commotion. Anger. In an uproar. How well does that describe the lack of civility, the willingness to confront, and the quickness to cancel which we see so prevalent in our public squares and in our political arenas. Rage.

Hovering over Psalm 2 this morning and that’s what characterizes a people who have rejected the LORD and His Anointed.

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us burst Their bonds apart and cast away Their cords from us.”

(Psalm 2:1-3 ESV)

Those who refuse and rebel against the Creator’s rightful rule will rage. It’s the fruit of self-determined freedom from any sort of transcendent moral reality. In a way, you gotta expect if from an increasingly secular society.

But what of those who are not in open rebellion but profess to bow before the Sovereign rule of God and assent to the lordship of His Christ? How have so many who claim the church as their own, and bear the banner of “the redeemed,” become so caught up in the ways of a world in rebellion. Why so such anger, tumult, and uproar there as well? Why the vitriol from those who confess victory in Jesus?

Could it be because they too, in a sense, have sought to burst apart the bonds of the way of the kingdom of heaven — the way of the cross? So caught up in their desire to achieve the ends of righteousness they cast away the cords of the means of righteousness?

For in [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

(Romans 1:17 ESV)

Faith, not fighting, that’s the power of the gospel. Trusting in God’s Sovereign rule, submitting to God’s Sovereign way, even as we seek to be salt and light in an age of tumult and rage.

Could it be that we “stand up” for God because we don’t believe He is standing up for Himself? That we wage war as the world around us because we fail to see how we’ve been distracted from a battle that really isn’t against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places (Eph. 6:12).

And so, we take up the sword of Twitter, or some other media fueled platform, with sarcasm, cynicism, and raging rhetoric even as we claim to be those who have been sent as ambassadors of Christ with the ministry of reconciliation (2Cor. 5:18-20a). Leaving in our closets at home the gospel of peace, the sword of the Spirit (which is the word of God), and the shield of faith (Eph. 6:15-18).

Faith which allows us to embrace the seeming restrictive bonds of the way of a blessed peacemaker (Matt. 5:9). Faith which quiets the soul even as it feels confined by waiting on God who, in His patient desire that all should come to a saving knowledge of His grace (2Pet. 3:9), tarries before bringing judgment and establishing His righteous rule.

But for those who can embrace the LORD’s bonds of peace, who can submit to His Annointed’s cords of the cross, the songwriter contends there is the promise of a blessing.

Blessed are all who take refuge in Him. (Psalm 2:12b ESV)

One man’s bonds, another man’s refuge. For one a raging battle, for the other a faith-fueled, spirit-calming blessing.

O’ that the church would let the nations rage and that we would engage as those whose confidence and hope are in the LORD and His Anointed.

Because of the abundant grace which we have known through Calvary.

All for the glory of the Christ who, even now, actively reigns over the kingdoms of heaven and earth.

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Names in a Book

And a new year begins. Sure, it’s a few days early, but somehow getting a jumpstart on 2021 seems appropriate. Something about diving into Genesis, Matthew, Acts, and the Psalms that explodes with new beginnings.

There’s the beginning of all things, our beginning as those created in the image of God (Genesis). There is the origin of the Creator’s course towards entering into His creation through the womb of a virgin (Matthew). Then there’s the beginning of the church (Acts), those called to be the Bride of Him who created all things. And then, the beginning of a renewed promise of blessing for those whose “delight is in the law of the LORD” (Psalms). Each of these readings kind of a pick-me-up to be honest.

And, of all the things that could have enticed me to hover over them in this morning’s readings, a quite unexpected surprise of what captures my thoughts. . . and produces a fresh sense of awe . . . and primes the pump for an outpouring of praise. Just some names in a book.

For the past few years, when reading “the book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ” in the opening chapter of Matthew’s gospel, I’ve grabbed my brown colored pencil and shaded five names in particular — Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, “the wife of Uriah”, and Mary. Shading something in brown is my way of highlighting something about grace. The fact that these five ladies appear in an otherwise all male lineup, in a genealogical culture that passes on heritage through the lineage of men, has always captured my attention as God’s bias-upsetting grace. And knowing the storylines behind some of these ladies, further jaw-dropping evidence of God’s unmerited favor.

But this morning, even as I went for the brown colored pencil, it hit me like a ton of bricks — I should be coloring every name in this list. Who isn’t here but by the grace of God?

Just start with Abraham, it’s not like he had an unblemished record. And though Isaac’s birth was grace upon grace, as God opened Sarah’s barren womb to provide the child of promise, Jacob was kind of a jerk. Striking this schemer from the list certainly could be justified, if not for the grace of God.

Sure, perhaps you could argue that Boaz deserves his place on the list, but even that this man conceived in iniquity should be raised up as a foreshadow of a Kinsman Redeemer ready to pay the price to claim a people for His own is grace beyond imagination. And though David has to make the list, if it were me I’d be inclined to omit the part that his son, Solomon, was “by the wife of Uriah.” Unless of course, my intent was to show that this genealogy is but a genealogy of God’s grace.

And don’t even get me going on some of the other kings mentioned. What’s Manasseh doing on the list?

But the list isn’t about them, is it? It’s about the King who came to establish His eternal kingdom, and that through a promised line of kings. And anyone who shows up on that list is there only because of God’s persistent purposes in fulfilling His promise — a persistent purpose which, apart from God’s abundant grace, would never see the promise fulfilled.

Just some names in a book? Don’t think so. Everyone of them evidence of God’s operative grace in sending a Savior to redeem sinners in need of redemption.

Did all those names personally respond to God’s grace? Don’t know. But I do know that, because of their place in God’s sovereign, redemptive determination, there is another book with a bunch of a names written in it who did respond.

A book where names have been written “before the foundation of the world.” The names of those purchased with the blood of “the Lamb who was slain.” Names written in “the book of life” (Rev. 13:8).

There due to no merit of their own. There despite their sin and rebellion. There only because of God’s grace.

Every name ready to be shaded with a brown colored pencil. Every name covered by the blood of the Lamb.

Every name there by God’s grace. Every name there for God’s glory.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

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Final Four

Finishing my reading plan for the year always comes with a sense of satisfaction. Maybe this year more than some others because it was been one of the few consistent things about 2020. So much turmoil, uncertainty, and disappointment in 2020. But the word of God is true, steadfast, and never fails to provide equilibrium.

So, as I chew on my final four readings in this year’s plan, here’s what’s lingering:

“They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession . . ”

(Malachi 4:17:a ESV)

The prophets can be brutal, but God’s purpose is always redemptive. He wants a people. He will love on that people. He will sacrifice for that people. He will contend for that people. He will discipline that people so that they might return to Him to be His people. And we will be His. A day coming when He takes us to Himself as His treasured possession. Me? Part of the Creator’s treasured possession? I’m thinkin’ . . . Amazing love! How can it be?

When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is My will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!”

(John 21:21-22 ESV)

It’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting someone else’s story. Not just because the grass always looks greener on the other side, but because sometimes it actually IS greener. But Jesus says, “What is that to you? You follow Me!” He is the Author of our story. In His book, before we ever were, He penned the days formed for us (Ps. 139:16)– days formed for His glory. We’re His workmanship, clay in the potter’s hand, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which He prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Eph. 2:10). No sense looking around at others. Turn your eyes upon Jesus. And follow Him.

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

(Revelation 22:20 ESV)

Coming soon . . . to a planet near you. And we will see His face. The face of the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end (22:13). The face of the Root and the Descendant of David, the Bright Morning Star (22:16b). Until then, we faithfully keep on keepin’ on.

And, until He comes, we come. Come, you who are thirsty and take the water of life freely given without price (22:17). Come, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and He will give you rest — rest for your souls f(Matt. 11:28-30).

Until You come, we’ll come. Even so, Lord Jesus, come!

Then Job answered the LORD and said: “I know that You can do all things . . .”

(Job 42:1-2a ESV)

That’s how Job wrapped us his 2020 journaling. Lot of troublesome times in his rearview mirror. Not many answers. But God made Himself known. Had shown Himself faithful, and just, and powerful, and able. And Job knew afresh, “You can do all things.” His grace sufficient. His promises true. His coming again sure.

Gonna take a break and change up the morning routine for the rest of this week. Anticipate starting back in on “the plan” next week, Lord willing.

Merry Christmas.

O come let us adore Him.

By His grace. For His glory.

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Done

Done! Anyone else feel that way? Done?

Not done as in “tapping out” done. But done as in feeling like the cupboards are bare, the tank is empty, and we’re mostly just running on fumes. I’m thinking pandemic fatigue is a thing.

Good time to be reading the last chapters of Revelation. Casting an eye to the there and then always has a way of helping you through the here and now. Just as I’m feeling kind of done with things on earth, my mind is set on things above. On things that will be. On a time when it really will be done.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also He said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And He said to me, “It is done!”

(Revelation 21:3-6a ESV)

Oh for the day when faith gives way to sight. When God tabernacles with His people not through the unseen, wind-like, supernatural dynamic of His indwelling Holy Spirit, but is Himself up close and personal — His throne in their midst.

. . . and God Himself will be with them as their God . . .

God close enough that He can reach out and wipe away every tear. His holy majesty so filling our spaces that former things will have to flee — there’ll be no room for them. New creations in Christ fully realizing all things being made new. And hearing familiar sounding words once again — trustworthy and true words, words worthy of being recorded for eternity — “It is done!”

They bring to mind the words shouted throughout eternity millennia ago which initiated the way of redemption. Three words from a cross. Three words spoken by a Redeemer. Three words which are the hope for eternity. “It is finished.” The work enabling all things to eventually be made new completed. The task performed. The once for all sacrifice executed. Finished. Concluded. Done.

But the “It is done” of Revelation conveys not so much an ending but a beginning. It doesn’t have the sense of completion, but of coming into existence. Of coming to pass. Of finally happening. There is coming a day when all things will be made new. God’s promises realized. A day when it will be done.

Knowing that someday I will hear with my own ears, “It is done,” somehow helps me deal with the “done-ness” of this day. And the next day. And, by God’s enabling, the day after that.

“He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes . . And He said to me, “It is done!”

Done. Yes it is!

According to His boundless grace. All for His everlasting glory.

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Like the Jewels of a Crown

When I started coloring my bible years ago, shading something in red was designated for “The Believer/The Church.” Truths about salvation I underline in red, the color of blood. So, covering with red seemed appropriate for observations concerning those bought by the blood.

Thus, in the early years, shaded red text was found mostly in the New Testament portion of my bibles. But over the years, shading in red has been expanded to cover the broader topic of “The People of God.” Be it ancient Israel of the Old Covenant, or the Bride of Christ under the New, the relational privileges, and the essential responsibilities for those God calls to be His own are essentially the same. To know their God. To dwell in holiness with God in their midst. To make known their God and be a blessing to all nations.

This morning, reading again in Zechariah, I shaded in red a reference to the people of God which brought to mind an old hymn and a fresh wave of wonder and worship.

In Zechariah 9 the prophet is shown a day when the promised King comes to reign. “Behold, you King is coming to you,” says the LORD, “righteous and having salvation is He, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zech. 9:9). Sound familiar? A reference to the Christ’s first entrance into Jerusalem, that triumphal entrance we celebrate as palm Sunday (Mt. 21:1-9).

The prophet is told that “because of the blood of My covenant with you,” that the coming King would set prisoners free “from a waterless pit” and return them to Zion, the place where the glory dwells (9:11-12). In that place, the LORD of hosts says, He “will appear over them” (9:14), and “protect them” (9:15), and “save them” (9:16). But in verse 16 there’s also a couple of observations to be made about the people of God.

On that day the LORD their God will save them, as the flock of His people; for like the jewels of a crown they shall shine on His land.

(Zechariah 9:16 ESV)

Observation one, God sees His people as a flock. Nothing new there. Familiar imagery. Transcends the Old Testament. Just as relevant in the New where Messiah, the Good Shepherd, lays down His life for the sheep. And so, “there will be one flock, one Shepherd” (Jn. 10:14-16).

But it’s observation two that causes me to pause and noodle on the imagery used. God’s people are like the jewels of a crown.

God’s people shine in the land as “gemstones . . . catching all the colors of the sun” (MSG). The radiance of God’s glory, Jesus Himself (Heb. 1:3), dispersed through the facets of the precious stones of His crown.

His victor’s crown? Could be. The holy crown of the great High Priest (Lev. 8:9). Could be that too. Whatever the exact nature of the crown, His people are its jewels.

Literally, His people are its “stones.” Hmmm, then are we living stones? I’m thinkin’ . . . So, more than being a spiritual house offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God (1Pet. 2:4-5), we’re also precious gems, evidence of His crowning achievement. The eternal reflection of the glory of His once for all acceptable sacrifice for sinners.

Like jewels of a crown. Worth chewing on I think.

Oh yeah, and then there’s the hymn that comes to mind, a blast from my past.

When He cometh, when He cometh
to make up His jewels,
all His jewels, precious jewels,
His loved and His own.

Like the stars of the morning,
His bright crown adorning,
they shall shine in their beauty,
bright gems for His crown.

He will gather, He will gather
the gems for His kingdom,
all the pure ones, all the bright ones,
His loved and His own.

Like the stars of the morning,
His bright crown adorning,
they shall shine in their beauty,
bright gems for His crown.

Little children, little children
who love their Redeemer,
are the jewels, precious jewels,
His loved and His own.

Like the stars of the morning,
His bright crown adorning,
they shall shine in their beauty,
bright gems for His crown.

William Cushing (1856), Public Domain

Not familiar with it. Click here to hear it sung.

The people of God. Covered in red. Precious jewels for His crown.

What wonder. What grace.

To God be the glory.

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God Knows

I think I do a lot better with the “thus says the Lord” prophets than I do with the “and I saw a vision” prophets. Those who declare what God has told them to declare leave us “only” with the task of how their words will be fulfilled. But those who tell us what they see, as God pulls back the veil on the supernatural, stretch our imagination as they try to describe what is often indescribable. I’m thinking that’s why my head hurts this morning as I try and pick up what Zechariah’s laying down in the opening chapters of his prophecy.

Maybe that’s why, in the midst of all I don’t quite get, I gravitate to that which seems to be clear. That while I don’t understand all the imagery used to describe the dynamics of how the spiritual realm works, I’m quick to pick up on the explanations given the prophet for what it means. Case in point, if nothing else from the first five chapters of Zechariah, I’m taking away the reminder that God knows.

First, in Zechariah 1, the prophet sees a vision of a man riding on a red horse standing among myrtle trees in a glen. And behind him, more horses with men on them. What’s that about? I’m thankful Zechariah’s thinking the same thing.

Then I said, “What are these, my lord?” The angel who talked with me said to me, “I will show you what they are.” So the man who was standing among the myrtle trees answered, “These are they whom the LORD has sent to patrol the earth.”

(Zechariah 1:9-10 ESV)

Hmmm. God sends earth patrols. Who knew? One of the ways an omniscient God goes about being all-knowing is to send His servants “to check things out on the earth” (MSG). To go throughout the earth (NIV). To traverse it “to and fro” (NKJV). To walk up and down in the land (YLT). Some distant, out of touch God? Apparently not. Disengaged? Wouldn’t seem so. Disinterested in what’s happening on the third planet from the sun? Don’t think so. He sends heavenly beings on heavenly horses to patrol it.

Then I read in Zechariah 4. And there, as part of a revelation of what is to come, Zechariah is shown “a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it, and seven lamps on it” (4:2). And the angel emcee walking Zechariah through all this un-worldly imagery asks the prophet, “Do you know what these are?” To which Z. replies, “Nope!”

Me neither.

Then, while explaining the vision to him, the angel clearly identifies what the lampstand with it’s seven lamps represents:

“These seven are the eyes of the LORD, which range through the whole earth.”

(Zechariah 4:10b ESV)

The eyes of the LORD range throughout the whole earth. God sees. God is aware. “The Lord of the whole earth” (4:14b) knows what’s going on even while enthroned in heaven.

Be still my soul. And chew on that.

Lot I don’t get. But with this the Spirit encourages me. Behind the scenes God is intimately aware and actively engaged. His patrols, even now I imagine, are walking up and down the land. From His heavenly realm, God has eyes on our earthly reality. He sees with eyes that miss nothing. So, while I might not get the under-the-hood workings of all the spiritual dynamics, I can be confident that our God is accomplishing His eternal purposes.

For God knows.

This too according to His abundant grace. This too for His everlasting glory.

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